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By Simon Jenkins

The heroes and villains, triumphs and failures of English background are immediately familiar—from the Norman Conquest to Henry VIII, Queen Victoria to the 2 global Wars. yet to appreciate their complete value we have to comprehend the entire story.

A brief heritage of England sheds new gentle on the entire key participants and occasions in English historical past through bringing them jointly in an enlightening account of the country’s start, upward push to worldwide prominence, after which partial eclipse. Written with aptitude and authority by means of Guardian columnist and London Times former editor Simon Jenkins, this is often the definitive narrative of ways today’s England got here to be. Concise yet entire, with greater than 100 colour illustrations, this pretty single-volume heritage stands out as the commonplace paintings for years to come.

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The surviving Norwegians were sent home humiliated. The death of Hardrada, ‘the last of the Vikings’, greatly lessened the threat from that quarter to the English throne. Twelfth-century depiction of William of Normandy, whose ruthless conquest and Norman settlement of England supplied the framework of the future nation state. Harold had spent just a week securing York when he was told the desperate news that William had sailed from France after all, and landed on 28 September at Pevensey. He now had to bring his exhausted army back south to London, where he received a message from William, now camped outside Hastings, restating his claim to the throne.

He was finally betrayed by the bribed monks of Ely, after which he disappeared and became a Fenland legend. William now turned his attention to the church, rewarding Norman bishops as he had barons. He replaced the Saxon Stigand as archbishop of Canterbury with Lanfranc, head of the abbey of Caen and a noted lawyer and administrator. Within two decades Norman bishops and abbots had been granted a quarter of England, in return for which they were expected to found monasteries and raise churches.

Seeing their chance, four Norman knights fought their way to him and hacked him to pieces. With the death of their leader, the Saxons fled to the surrounding woods. Harold’s body was so mutilated in the melee that his mistress, the charmingly named Edith Swan-Neck, had to be summoned to identify its parts. Harold was buried at Waltham Abbey, north of London. The narrative of Hastings was recorded in a tapestry, commissioned probably from English needleworkers by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother.

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